Chunchun (Valentina) Zhang ('17SPS, Business Plus; '19CSSW alumna) was first drawn to the Columbia School of Professional Studies as a student visiting during her senior year studying economics at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics. Wanting to experience New York and take transferable classes at a prestigious university, Chunchun enrolled in the school’s Business Plus program for during her senior year of undergraduate study.
Business Plus offers non-native English speakers an opportunity to improve oral communication and writing skills while taking courses in business, science, or math. Armed with such skills, Chunchun went on to study Social Enterprise Administration at the Columbia School of Social Work, graduating in May 2019.
Today, Chunchun works at an insurance company in Hangzhou, China as a consultant in her company’s corporate social responsibility and organizational development department, where she says she still uses skills she acquired during her time in the Business Plus program.
What first drew you to Columbia School of Professional Studies?
First, I joined an information session held at my home university and became interested in the program. I had previously joined an exchange program and studied in Glasgow, UK for a fruitful year where I learned a lot.
Second, my home university allowed the credits I earned in the program to transfer. I joined the program during my senior year, which has less required courses in China, and so the transfer credits were workable for me. Also, I felt it was a good chance to explore a new culture.
Third, the reputation of Columbia University as well as the attraction of New York City brought me to my final decision.
What was your experience in the Business Plus program?
I took four courses: Oral Communication, Business Writing, Security Analysis, and Green Accounting. Personally, I felt the workload was doable, but I still spent a month adjusting my way of learning and getting to know new friends.
I made some good friends from different countries. We got along well with each other and it was a great chance to learn about other cultures.
The presentation skills I learned in my Oral Communication class will continue to benefit me for a lifetime.— Chunchun Zhang, ‘17SPS, Business Plus; ‘19CSSW, Social Enterprise Administration
Is there any coursework from your Business Plus study that is still applicable to what you do now?
The presentation skills I learned in my Oral Communication class will continue to benefit me for a lifetime. I also realized the significance of teamwork. Everyone should carry out their duties, which contributes to efficiency.
I am working on my company’s corporate social responsibility team. What I learned in my Security Analysis and Green Accounting classes has helped a lot.
How did Business Plus help you prepare for graduate study in social work?
Whether in writing or speaking skills, the Business Plus program prepared me to get into the groove of graduate study quickly.
As I mentioned before, skills such as presentation, teamwork, and learning the norms of writing papers were applicable during my graduate studies.
Social work study requires a deep understanding of American cultures. I am grateful that I got the chance to be soaked in this culture and knew a little about policies and social status’ role in American culture.
During the Business Plus program, I joined an information session that introduced me to the Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program in the Columbia School of Social Work. It helped me understand the breadth of social work and helped me make up my mind that this is what I wanted to study.
I concentrated on Social Enterprise Administration while pursuing the Master’s degree. Green Accounting and Security Analysis gave me insights into this field.
[My favorite memories are] the time I spent with my friends, the excitement when your work is recognized by professors, the sense of achievement when you learned new things and, also, the wonderful life in NYC!— Chunchun Zhang, ‘17SPS, Business Plus; ‘19CSSW, Social Enterprise Administration
What are some of your favorite memories of the Business Plus program?
The time I spent with my friends, the excitement when your work is recognized by professors, the sense of achievement when you learned new things, and, also, the wonderful life in NYC!
What advice do you have for future students?
- If you are struggling with your studies, don’t be upset. It takes some time to get used to a totally different learning atmosphere. Be open-minded and remember to ask for help — your classmates, your professors and Columbia University faculty are super supportive.
- Go out of your comfort zone and rise to the challenge! Take the courses you are interested in and you SHOULD study hard.
- Last but not least, you’d better spend some time exploring the city, food, museums, communities, etc. I promise you will fall into it. I’ve been missing my time living there.
I wish you all good luck and have a bright future. Enjoy your time in New York City. It is such an incredible place!
Learn more about Business Plus, which offers non-native English speakers an opportunity to improve oral communication and writing skills while taking courses in business, science, or math.